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Nov 24, 2011: More on answering detractors of vegetarianism

Detractors of vegetarianismDuring a recent discussion we had about vegetarianism, a friend of mine admitted to trying to "deconstruct" some of my beliefs. While our discussion was an amicable one, what he said made me think, once again, about the whole phenomenon of trying to find holes, moral or otherwise, in a vegetarian/vegan way of life.

As it states in the third part of "A Life of Meaning", "Ask yourself what you have done to advance your own compassion and empathy before pointing out the supposed faults in another person's approach." This sentence encourages people to think positively, to grow their own empathy instead of justifying their own shortcomings (or negation thereof) by finding flaws in another's approach. This is very important, as it is often people who have done absolutely nothing to try to find empathy in their own hearts that are vegetarianism's biggest detractors. Here's another good, relevant quote from the above-mentioned text: "How ridiculous it is to accuse someone of having dirty fingernails while you yourself are wallowing in dirt." Still, let's forget about all this, and answer the "accusations" as directly as possible.

The old "you are not as saintly as you make yourself out to be" connotation is an integral part of many a detractor's argument. Questions like "Do you respect ALL animals? What about cockroaches?" often pop up in attempts to discredit us. Thankfully I live in a house where this is not an issue, but I can answer in terms of mosquitos. I try not to kill them. There have been times, however, when I have killed a mosquito. Does this negate all the positive things that I have done in order to minimize the suffering of countless other animals? Of course not. Am I perfect? Of course not. Neither I, nor most vegetarians/vegans out there will ever claim to be. Can I still speak out about the necessity of eliminating meat and other animal products from one's diet? Of course I can. No one is perfect, but if you have made real advances, either active or passive, in improving the way you interact with other animals, there is nothing wrong with letting people know about this.

This takes us back to the whole "all or nothing" argument against both vegetarianism and the way we treat other animals. It all boils down to one of our key beliefs: Being on the right path is as important as reaching the goal. Criticism, if any, should be constructive and encourage people to take further positive steps, instead of pulling someone back into the fire because they have failed to live up to some bogus idea of perfection.

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